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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 06/16/2010

Minorities drive biggest jump in college freshman enrollment in 40 years, study says

By Valerie Strauss

Hispanics and other minority students drove the largest rise in freshman enrollment in the past 40 years at the nation’s 6,100 four-year, post-secondary institutions from fall 2007 to fall 2008, according to a study released today. But the enrollment boom was concentrated in certain states and highly focused on a very small number of the largest colleges and universities.

The report, by the Pew Research Center and entitled “Minorities and the Recession-Era College Enrollment Boom,” said that there was a 6 percent jump in overall freshman enrollment at four-year colleges, community colleges and trade schools from 2007 to 2008, the first year of the recession.

Hispanics had a 15 percent increase; blacks, 8 percent; Asians, 6 percent; and whites, 3 percent, according to the study, conducted by Pew Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project.

Educators and population experts have for several years been predicting a rise in minority freshman enrollment in post-secondary institutions as the country’s overall demographics change.

The makeup of the freshman class at the nation’s four-year colleges and universities dropped from 64 percent white in 2007 to 62 percent white in 2008, the report said. And the freshman class makeup at community colleges and trade schools dropped from 55 white in 2007 to 53 percent white in 2008.

Of the 144,000-student -- or 6 percent -- increase in freshman enrollment, about 72,000 occurred at just 109 colleges and universities. That means at less than 2 percent of the nation’s post-secondary schools accommodated half of the enrollment boom.

The nonprofit schools with the biggest increases:
*Fresno City College, a two-year California public school, 448 percent increase.
*Riverside Community College, a two-year California public school, 227 percent increase
*Mesa Community College, a two-year Arizona public school, 149 percent increase
*Santa Ana College, a two-year California college, 127 percent

The largest public four-year institution was Arizona State University, with a 21 percent rise, followed by the University of Oregon’s 20 percent increase.

The enrollment rise is attributed to at least two factors, the report said. It came at a time when employment opportunities for young people fell significantly as the recession began to take hold, and the nation’s high school graduating class in spring/summer 2008 was estimated to be the largest ever.

What’s more, record rates of high school graduates are heading straight to college.

In October 2008, 68.6 percent of these new graduates were enrolled in college, matching the previous high. And last October, the figure was up to 70 percent.

“The strong growth in freshman enrollment suggests that youths do ‘adapt to circumstances,’ ” the study said.

Minority college students “tend to be clustered” more at community colleges and trade schools than at four-year colleges, and two-year community schools, most of which are community colleges, saw the largest increase -- 11 percent. Four-year institutions saw a 4 percent freshman enrollment rise, while trade schools, which offer programs of less than two years, saw a rise of 5 percent.

For-profit colleges and universities -- including four-year schools as well as those with shorter programs -- had an 11 percent jump, it said.

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By Valerie Strauss  | June 16, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  College Admissions, Equity  | Tags:  college enrollment, freshman college enrollment, freshman enrollment jumps, freshman enrollment rises, pew enrollment study, pew research center, pew study on college enrollment  
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How many of these minority freshman will return for their sophomore year? Please let us know in 15 months.

Posted by: postisarag | June 16, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I bet less than half will graduate in less than 5 years.

Posted by: kenk3 | June 16, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Arizona State University, cited in the column, has an acceptance rate of 95% and has an equally horrible rate of graduating their freshman.

Posted by: pepperjade | June 16, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the graduating minorities will drive down entry-level salaries. They've driven down everything else.

Just a side note, there are many graduates of traditionally Hispanic institutions in the U.S. that can't read and write English at a college level. So America, be prepared for much more of the ubiquitous "press 1 for English."

Posted by: TooManyPeople | June 17, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Looks like minorities can't win either way with the clowns. They go to school--it's a problem, they hang on the streets and be thugs--bigger problem.

A flea carries more weight than your opinions.

Posted by: case50 | June 17, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Yeah no kidding case50. Don't these people have a tea party rally to attend or something?

Posted by: smckaho420 | June 17, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Other articles and editorials in the Washington Post reported an increase in the number of minorities who take the SAT/ACT and AP tests. It shouldn't be a surprise that there would be an increase in their college enrollment.

A message to any member of a minority group who is working to complete a college degree: Ignore negative comments from people who want to see you fail. Remember, America is a better place when we all work together and help each other succeed.

Posted by: doglover6 | June 17, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I bet less than half will graduate in less than 5 years.

Posted by: kenk3
Shouldn't that be "FEWER than half?"

I hope it doesn't bother you to be corrected by an African American.

Posted by: carlaclaws | June 17, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I think it's time to end affirmative action. Clearly, the "leg up" that African Americans sought was given long ago. Now, hispanics think they deserve a "leg up," too, even though they're mainly here illegally, or their parents are. I think working class white people deserve a break. Affirmative Action is a class-based system that hurts only the poorest whites--no Senator's child ever had to compete with an affirmative action hire. Democrats certainly want minorities to flourish, even at the expense of white people. It's unfair and it's time to stop "reverse racism," which is really just racism by another name.

Posted by: woof3 | June 17, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

this doesn't really matter, at all!

Posted by: stayone | June 17, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Spoken like a true racist uninformed idiot! Isn't it funny how in AA debates, a lot of Republikkklan white men talk about how the are discriminated against. Give me a break!

When I hear white guys admit and complain about the white male advantage, then talk to me! Let's see: CEO's, college presidents, chairmen of the boards, U.S. Senators, etc, etc usually white males...then the argument is they're the most qualified and the best candidate!

Woof3, shut the hell up and die along with Limbaugh and Beck!

Posted by: TheChampisheretoo | June 17, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Those 18-20 are also adults. Racism is intolerance. Since the minority population in the United States is increasing, colleges and universities are reflecting this and this is not bad. Regardless of race or ethnicity, young women and young men should have the chance to succeed in higher education if they want to.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | June 17, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

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